Back to Work with Rick Warren

When The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren became a huge hit several years ago, my church did a congregation-wide study on it. This was a fruitful study — every Christian can benefit from learning more about worshiping God, enjoying fellowship within the community of Christian believers, becoming more Christ-like, serving within the church, and sharing the gospel with others (those are the 5 main “purposes” in the book, for those of you who haven’t read it —

Despite the broad appeal of Warren’s main points, however, I was left feeling a little — well — purposeless in my daily working life. We spend the majority of our time working — sometimes in jobs we don’t want to do — and it can be difficult to see a direct connection between those jobs and Warren’s 5 purposes.  It is tempting to react like former CEO and President of Adidas, Erich Stamminger, who, after reading The Purpose Driven Life and converting to Christianity, “asked Warren if he should leave his post as the company’s head in order to become a pastor” (Read more here). Fortunately, Warren told Stamminger to keep his job, and this conversation forms part of Warren’s recent sermon series in which he encourages his congregants in their daily work, saying that work is not a punishment, but part of God’s design for man that will continue into heaven.

Cubicles just don’t inspire that “purpose-filled” feeling…

When I first came across these words from Warren through the high calling blog (a wonderful resource for figuring out how Christianity and daily work relate to one another), I was relieved. I felt as though a major gap in Purpose Driven Life — and in evangelical culture at large — was being slowly filled. Our work — as work — matters, and that’s simply not a message that gets a lot of pulpit time, despite its extreme relevance to the average church-goer. Christians need to articulate a theology of work that extends beyond the job as a tool for evangelism or as funding for one’s “real” church ministry. That’s an area where Warren’s message has needed a little work. According to the linked Christian Post article above, when Warren advised the Adidas CEO not to quit, Warren told him to find purpose in his work by using his job as a platform for Christianity and by praying for his co-workers. Obviously, these are very good things to do, but they leave the work itself seeming kind of pointless. Now, however, Warren is coming closer to a more complete vision of Christian work in his current sermon series, which stresses that work itself is good, that it pre-dates the Fall, and that it’s something that will continue into heaven. That’s the kind of message that can give real “purpose” to our daily lives, especially on a cold Monday morning like this one, when getting out of bed and going to work is the last thing I want to do.

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